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Newborn Care

What to Expect After Delivery

Babies can be born vaginally or by C-section. Both ways are safe for baby and mom, but there may be some differences in your baby’s care after delivery.

Newborn Care after a Vaginal Delivery

After a vaginal delivery, a healthy baby receives brief health assessments and then can begin bonding with you skin-to-skin. Being close to your skin will help your baby feel secure and warm.

Your baby will likely be alert right after birth and may turn toward you at the sound of your voice. A newborn’s vision is blurry at first, but your baby can see best at a distance of about 8 to 12 inches and will be able to focus on your face.

Your baby may naturally find your breast and try to latch on, so you may begin breastfeeding your baby right away. If you had anesthesia or medication during labor and delivery, it may take a short time for your baby to begin sucking. Most healthy babies can breastfeed within a few hours after birth.

In addition to promoting bonding between mother and baby, breastfeeding soon after birth will help stimulate milk production. It will also help your uterus shrink back to its normal size and slow bleeding.

Newborn Care after a C-Section

If you have a cesarean section (C-section) to deliver your baby, you will likely have regional anesthesia and be awake when your baby is born.

Right after delivery, we will assess your baby to ensure they are breathing well. Some newborns need extra help clearing fluid and mucus from their lungs after a C-section. A doctor or nurse will carefully suction your baby’s nose, mouth and throat and perform brief health assessments.

You will be able to hold your baby skin-to-skin and begin bonding. Some babies may need to be observed in the nursery after a C-section, but your baby will be brought to you in the recovery room as soon as possible. You can begin breastfeeding your baby at this time. Anesthesia may affect a baby’s sucking reflex for a short time, but most babies can start to breastfeed within a few hours after delivery.

Common Newborn Conditions

Your baby will be wet and easily chilled immediately after birth, so skin-to-skin contact with you will help keep your baby warm. A nurse may put a knit hat on your baby’s head or gently wrap your baby in blankets.

Newborns can develop some health conditions after birth. Some of these conditions include:


It’s common for a baby’s belly to stick out, but typically it is soft, especially between feedings. If a newborn’s tummy feels hard or swollen between feedings, it could be due to gas, constipation or an intestinal condition that needs treatment.


Newborns often have bluish fingers and toes after birth, but this should go away when the baby warms up and blood starts circulating efficiently. If the bluish color doesn’t resolve, it may indicate a problem with the baby’s heart or lungs, which needs immediate medical attention.

Newborns should have their first bowel movement within 48 hours after delivery. If a newborn has not had a bowel movement or has blood in his or her stool, a pediatrician should evaluate the baby for a potential bowel problem.


Occasionally a baby will have a broken collarbone during delivery. This is more common among larger babies. This injury typically heals quickly. A health care provider will be able to diagnose any broken bones right after delivery.


All babies get diaper rash at some point, causing red and painful skin under the baby’s diaper. To prevent diaper rash, change wet and dirty diapers promptly using fragrance-free and alcohol-free wipes or a soft wet washcloth.

Treat diaper rash with a thick layer of zinc oxide diaper cream. If any sign of infection occurs, call a pediatrician for advice


It’s normal for babies to cry – sometimes a lot. Make sure your baby has been fed, changed and burped, has a clean diaper and is warm. Call your pediatrician if your baby has a change in their crying pattern, such as shrieking.

Many newborns have jaundice, which is a buildup of bilirubin in the baby’s blood that causes yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes. Jaundice doesn’t always need treatment, but sometimes a newborn may need light therapy for a day or two.

In some cases, jaundice is caused by an underlying medical condition, such as hepatitis, gallstones or a tumor, which may require additional treatment.


It’s normal for newborns to sleep much of the day. But if a baby doesn’t wake up to feed or is not interested in feeding, he or she should be evaluated by a pediatrician.

Extremely fast breathing, sucking in the torso muscles, nostril flaring or grunting are abnormal in a baby. These can indicate respiratory distress and need immediate medical attention.

Any problem with the umbilical cord, such as foul-smelling discharge, bleeding, tenderness or any sign of infection, should be evaluated by a doctor. If the umbilical cord has not fallen off and healed within one to three weeks, get a pediatrician’s advice.

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